Making Your Own Organic Compost: An Infographic Guide
You may be asking yourself, “why would you make your own compost when it would be so much easier to simply buy pre-made ones from the store?” One good reason for this is due to there being no guarantee that compost bought from shops are made of high-quality materials. When you make your own organic compost, you at least have the benefit of knowing what was used. Compost is beneficial for plants for a number of reasons. First, it can stabilize the physical structure of the soil, which means you are less likely to deal with problems such as soil erosion. Compost can also help with modifying the pH level of the soil. For example, if you live in a desert-like region where the soil tends to be alkaline in nature, compost can help in lowering the soil pH over the long-term.
To get you started, we created an infographic guide on the basics of making organic compost. A lot of gardeners don’t do this because they think the process is complicated. In reality, making compost is actually pretty simple, especially if you use one of the low-maintenance methods shown in the infographic below.
Composting – Main Components
These four components play an essential part in the composting process. Organic matter is the material that is broken down by the microorganisms to turn into compost. Gardeners have to be aware that there has to be a proper balance between green (carbon) and brown (nitrogen) materials for the process to work. This balance is often referred to as the Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio. In order to produce fertile compost, gardeners should look to maintain a C:N ratio of around 30:1. A quick search online will help you determine what the estimated C:N ratio is for materials such as hay (25:1) and shredded newspaper (175:1).
Moisture level is another factor that gardeners should look out for. The ideal moisture level should be around 50-60%. If the compost pile becomes too dry then the composting process won’t work as water is needed for the microorganisms to function. If the moisture content is too high then that could prevent air (oxygen) from circulating within the compost pile, which would then lead to anaerobic conditions.
The last piece of the puzzle is the bacteria or the microorganisms. The bacteria will break down the materials in the compost pile once the optimal conditions are supplied. To speed up the process, some gardeners like to use worms and other insects to break down larger organic materials more quickly. This technique is called Vermicomposting and you can learn more about it by viewing the methods section.
The items highlighted above are some of the most commonly used materials in compost piles. The type of material you use will affect a number of factors, such as the time it takes to create the compost. For example, fruit peels are going to rot and decompose faster than things like eggshells. In the end, what is most important is to mix a good variety of objects.
If you want to make compost as quickly as possible then there are certain steps you can take with the materials to speed up the process. For example, shredding things like leaves, newspapers, and fruit peels will help make the process faster because the surface area that the microorganisms have to work on increases. Gardeners who use eggshells often take the extra step of baking them in the oven before they are thrown into the compost pile. This helps with reducing the risks of Salmonella, and also makes it easier to crush the eggshells into tiny pieces. Composting in a controlled environment like a greenhouse may also help.
Composting Materials to Avoid
You will come across plenty of arguments online that discuss both for and against the use of dairy products and meat in compost piles. In reality, both products can be used in compost piles but it is generally recommended that you avoid using them if you are a first-timer. One big reason for this has to do with attracting rodents. Both meat and dairy products tend to generate a foul smell when they decompose and this could attract unwanted pests and rodents, such as cockroaches, flies, and rats.
Aside from meat and dairy products, you should avoid using anything that contain a notable degree of chemical products, such as color-dyed paper and treated wood. Cooking oil and fat should also be avoided because they could disrupt the moisture balance in the compost pile.
The secret to successful composting is to select a method that suits your needs and the surrounding environment. Are you looking to generate enough compost for a huge garden? Or are you looking to produce a small amount for a mini grow tent? The size of your yard (where the composting will take place) and the amount of compost you would like to produce will influence your choice of composting method. For example, worm bins and enclosed compost bins would be best-suited for gardeners working with a limited amount of space. Bins generally do not require a lot of space and they also keep the surrounding area more neat and tidy.
Before you take the leap, it is important to understand the local regulations for home composting. If you reside in the United States, you can get this information from the Environmental Protection Agency. Some neighborhoods may also have their own regulations in place to ensure the odor of the compost does not become a problem to others. Learn what these rules are then start to make a difference to the environment by creating your first pile of organic compost.